Sunday, May 1, 2011

First Plantings for the Square Foot Gardens

Last weekend (April 22) I covered the oldest of the gardens (planted 2008) with 1.5 inches of sheep and cattle manure. By the end of last season it was clear the soil needed nutrients: at the end of their third year they were producing carrots and beets half the size of the new gardens. This year I plan to experiment with a couple types of home-brewed, liquid fertilizers: stay tuned. 
No chance I'll be planting this garden in the next couple weeks!

Lovage, mustard and flax line the back of this garden. I use these square foot gardens like a greenhouse or cold frame- I plant the cold-tolerant seeds early and will move most seedlings to other spots in the garden. 

If you can see my scrawling on the sticks, I've planted 3 square feet of hyssop with 16 seeds each for a total possible 48 plants... I want to do a mass group planting in the front boulevard of our house and I guess I really love hyssop! There are four squares of swiss chard planted in the centre of this bed: Swiss Chard regenerates after cutting, so I won't worry about succession plantings (for those who don't know what that is, it's doing a number of plantings spaced a week or two apart to stretch out the harvest). Four is probably too much swiss chard- but if it goes crazy in the middle of summer, I'll pull the two north squares and plant spinach there (which will benefit from the shade of the fully grown swiss chard up front!).

Here's a map of the two boxes as I've planted them now. I include the date I plant it and often the variety. About half of these boxes will become empty at the end of May as I use the seedlings to plant my yard's gardens (hyssop, cornflower, sunflowers, lovage, mustard and flax will be moved) and my deck pots (nasturtiums, lettuce, red teff grass will be transplanted). 

A closer look. 

It's terribly ugly, I know, but I'm experimenting with creating a micro climate that will extend my season, without the need to build further cold frames and greenhouses. What the tent lacks in attraction, it makes up for in utility-- after a week about half of the seedlings have germinated with the arugula about two weeks from being harvestable. As for the garden on the right side, I've covered it with frost- cloth sold for tomatoes. It also has been effective in keeping the soil warm enough for many of the seeds in this box to germinate. The trick now is keeping the seedlings alive despite the dipping night temperatures. Last year I covered many of the seedlings with the bottoms of pop bottles- which created mini-greenhouses (technically these are often called 'cloches' but pop bottles/ milk jugs are cheaper!). This year I'm trying out old windows. Placed over the top of the boxes, these windows have worked similarly to the cloches. I will need to watch, however, that the seedlings underneath don't burn as our daytime temperatures inch up.

Oh, how nice it is to finally be outside- working and sweaty!

As an aside: happy voting, Canada!


Wholesome Abode said...

I have garden envy! My backyard is still chaos!

Ashley @ Root And Twig said...

Thanks for this glance at your garden. I wish I could come to your workshop, because we've got some raised beds going into our yard this spring and 'squarefoot' gardening is the idea!

Rachel said...

On the topic of fertilizers, have you tried worm castings (or as I like to call it, worm poo)? My friend is a worm farmer (vermiculturalist) and I have been using them for a few years and have seen great results. You can just sprinkle it on/in your soil or make a 'tea' with it and use the liquid.

An Avenue Homesteader said...

Good luck, Ashley, with the new gardens! Next time I'm in Calgary we can connect and exchange ideas.

Thanks for the tip on worm castings, Rachel. I have used castings bought from a store, but stuff I've personally watched be produced! Do you have wrigglers inside that produce the poo?

And do not despair, Wholesome Abode! Backyard chaos is another word for great opportunity (and many hours of happy shopping at the greenhouse!)!